Brandon Sanderson's Prolific Fantasy Writing Is Exactly What The Genre Needs - His Religion Shouldn't Matter

By now, dedicated fans of fantasy author Brandon Sanderson are likely familiar with the recent Wired article, "Brandon Sanderson Is Your God," and the less than stellar views it expressed about his writing, person, and even fanbase. Soon after it dropped, Sanderson issued a response on Reddit, expressing disappointment but also devoting time to carefully consider the writer's point of view, and even imploring more than once that his fans shouldn't cause trouble for the guy.

In a carefully-constructed, orderly universe — perhaps one of Sanderson's — the initial slash about him not being a particularly good writer would've been deftly countered by the author's finely crafted Reddit riposte, and everyone would've wandered in their own directions, some with more egg on their face than others. However, since the world we live in has Twitter, the waters will likely ripple for some time.

Art being subjective, it's pointless to condemn the journalist's thoughts of Sanderson's writing style. However, there's one thing in the article that shouldn't be attributed to personal impressions, let alone presented as career-defining fact. Starting from its lead paragraph, the piece made multiple mentions of the author's Mormon faith, and how it plays a major part in his work. When confronted with this thesis, Sanderson himself agreed there's a parallel to be drawn between the world-buildings in his fiction and his religion. 

This moment in the article does actually capture a profound truth about Sanderson's role as an author — just not the religion-tinted one its writer intended. Sanderson's renowned for giving people what they want (such as, purely hypothetically speaking, a nice quote in support of an angle his interviewer was so obviously reaching for). When it comes to his work, this is a far more important aspect than religious matters.

Targeting Sanderson's religion is focusing on the wrong thing

A writer's ideas don't magically arrive from the ether, and they're filtered through a brain that's filled with their entire life. Sometimes, things trickle through. 

It's not exactly hard to find themes informed and inspired by Sanderson's faith from his work, if that's what you have set out to look for. Still, even though he does deal in myths and gods, he's not proselytizing in any way, and doesn't weave his lengthy works full of thinly veiled Mormon teachings and Easter eggs. As it happens, the very author the Wired article unfavorably compared Sanderson to wore his religious and personal influences far more openly — that is, J.R.R. Tolkien didn't just bring his real-life philology career heavily into play when he created Middle-earth, but he also brought his Catholicism to the table, and stuffed his work full of Christian themes. 

As such, it's probably best to avoid throwing stones at Sanderson's perceived religious influences, unless you want to hit Tolkien (and C.S. Lewis, and any number of other fantasy writers) on the way. In fact, it seems that the whole "oh look, he's a Mormon" thing unfairly singles him out, and insinuates that he's not allowed to come up with stories without them being entirely defined by this one aspect of his life.

Still, if we really do want to define Sanderson by a single thing, there is one: his reliable productivity. When it comes to fantasy writers, it's a rare property that's worth more than its weight in gold.

Brandon Sanderson is your prolific fantasy writer

As the Wired article noted, Sanderson is a worker. However, it failed to fully highlight just how great and rare this is within the fantasy genre. 

Genre fiction is often defined by tardiness, and lengthy periods of time between published works. Stars are born and die, yet George R.R. Martin continues to work on "The Winds of Winter." In this environment, Sanderson is a happy aberration. He steadily produces volume after volume of the stuff that his fans love so much that they line up to buy great big leather-bound editions and attend a Sanderson-themed convention. 

This is not a man who misses deadlines. This is a man who works on multiple giant epics at a time, publishing new works consistently and constantly. He juggles an impossible amount of stories and characters, and manages to do so in a way that keeps his fans happyIt's impossible to reiterate just how big a deal this is, and how much work and planning it takes to maintain this level of output. If Brandon Sanderson's body of work has to be boiled down to a single thing, let that be the one. He's a stone cold professional by any worthwhile metric, amicable appearances be damned.

Are there legitimate criticisms against Sanderson's work? Sure — if his comparatively formulaic brand of writing isn't for you, feel free to go to town. That's the reader's purview, as long as you keep things civil. But should his religion come in play when you discuss his writing? No, and definitely not to the extent that the Wired article implies.